Transgenerational epigenetic inheritance: prevalence, mechanisms, and implications for the study of heredity and evolution

Q Rev Biol. 2009 Jun;84(2):131-76. doi: 10.1086/598822.


This review describes new developments in the study of transgenerational epigenetic inheritance, a component of epigenetics. We start by examining the basic concepts of the field and the mechanisms that underlie epigenetic inheritance. We present a comprehensive review of transgenerational cellular epigenetic inheritance among different taxa in the form of a table, and discuss the data contained therein. The analysis of these data shows that epigenetic inheritance is ubiquitous and suggests lines of research that go beyond present approaches to the subject. We conclude by exploring some of the consequences of epigenetic inheritance for the study of evolution, while also pointing to the importance of recognizing and understanding epigenetic inheritance for practical and theoretical issues in biology.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological / genetics
  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Epigenesis, Genetic*
  • Germ-Line Mutation
  • Heredity*
  • Inheritance Patterns*
  • Reproduction / genetics